Society - Culture

Healing journey of an American veteran

Translated by HO THU May 04, 2024 21:26

(QNO) - Manus Campbell, a former soldier of the US Marine Corps, was once haunted by the cruel reality during the American invasion in Vietnam. For over 15 years, he has volunteered as a war storyteller to help heal wounds.

Obsessions with war

Manus Campbell and his family visited the Tam Thanh mural village (Tam Ky City, Quang Nam Province) in late April 2023 and met Tran Chi Khanh, a war invalid with a lost foot. Two soldiers who were on two front lines in the past are now giving each other a warm friendly hug like friends.

Manus Campbell and Tran Chi Khanh

Manus Campbell used to be a soldier on the Quang Tri and Dong Ha battlefields from 1967 to 1968, when he was 19.

Campbell marched through temporarily occupied territories, where the devastation, hunger, death, and desperate and pleading eyes of innocent people made him haunted. At that time, he realised that the war was really cruel and that there would be no real victory in any invasion.

Manus Campbell

After two years in the American invasion in Vietnam, Campbell returned to the U.S. and suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (a war syndrome). He immersed himself in alcohol and stimulants for years to forget his feelings of guilt and regret.

In 2007, Campbell went to Vietnam, visiting the old battlefields, to face the truth. Then he met a mom in Hue whose husband and son died in the war for their fatherland. She forgave Campbell and let him stay in her son’s room.

Manus Campbell (R) and his Vietnamese friends

For Campbell, Vietnam is the hell of the past, and he has never thought that he would return to this place. However, everything is different now.

Vietnam, Manus Campbell's second homeland

In 2009, Campbell founded a non-governmental organisation called HIVOW (Helping Invisible Victims of War) to help war victims and support Children’s Hope in Action (CHIA) in Hoi An to support children and victims of Agent Orange in Central Vietnam.

Manus Campbell and leaders of the Quang Nam Department of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs give gifts to disadvantaged children in Tien Phuoc at Tet 2024.

Robyn Morly (founder of CHIA in Hoi An) said that Campbell has been involved in CHIA’s charity activities and care for disabled children for years. This is extremely significant support.

Till now, Campbell has spent more than 15 years travelling through the Central provinces in the hope of cleaning up the remnants of American mines and Agent Orange.

In addition, Campbell is now working as an anti-war narrator. He wants to spend his remaining time healing the wounds of war. It was the tolerance and altruism of the Vietnamese that helped him escape from the post-traumatic stress disorder and release the heavy burden of guilt.

Manus Campbell, his wife (Phan Doan Trang from Hoi An, who used to work on social assistance projects sponsored by himself), and their son in Tam Thanh mural village

The Long Reckoning is a book about war, peace, and the redemption of mistakes in Vietnam by George Black. It was published in March 2023 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the last American soldier leaving Vietnam. Manus Campbell is one of the two main characters in the book.

Manus Campbell and author of The Long Reckoning

According to Ted Osius, a former US Ambassador to Vietnam, the book sheds light on the two "double legacies" of the American invasion in Vietnam : Agent Orange and leftover bombs. It also tells a vivid story about real people that provides a profound new insight into the lasting consequences of a traumatic war.

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Healing journey of an American veteran